The Navratras end today. Temple bells are ringing off their hinges, severely affecting the heavenly slumber of more than a million gods and goddesses. Devotees throng the temples to pray in earnest. Elaborate ceremonies are held at home for little virgin girls from nearby slums, who stand in line to be fed as they embody the Goddess.
Did you know we celebrate 5 different types of Navratras during the year? Fascinating stories surround each. The story I love the most is the one linked to Shardiya Navratri, the one that is supposedly the most significant, celebrated in October each year. The one in which Durga is worshipped as Goddess Shakti or the Goddess of Power.
The story goes that the mighty demon Mahishasura obtained the power of eternity by worshipping Lord Shiva. What happens when one gives a demon more power – more terror? Mahishasura duly went on to spread terror among innocent people. The innocent people started calling out to their gods for help. The holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva united their powers and created a divine, beautiful female warrior whom they called Goddess Durga.
So stunning was she that, overcome and mesmerized by her divine beauty, the evil demon asked her to marry him. Durga challenged the demon to a duel, agreeing to marry him if she lost. The battle lasted 9 nights and ended on the 10th night when she beheaded him. Good had triumphed over evil.
My problem is what happens next many celestial years later. Today, millions worship Durga but how many of us are ready to fight the battle of good over evil?
When Laxmi becomes a victim of acid attack by a 32 year old man because she refused to marry him at the age of 15, we hide behind her scars. When Baby Aarti, 1.5 years old was raped by a 23 year old man who wanted to teach her mother a lesson for refusing his romantic overtures, many of us find such stories very disturbing and request that such news not be shared with on their Facebook feeds. When Kanta, a 35 year old executive in a multimillion dollar firm becomes a victim of sexual harassment, threatened and silenced into mute submission by her harassers, have you refused to listen by feigning a weak heart?
Durga would not have sat back and watched. It amazes me to see people play out the nine days of celebration and devotion in temples and prayer rooms, hoping to get a whiff of her divine presence, but are unable to find her strength to begin the fight against evil. By our silence, are ‘we the people’ turning into Mahishasura?
Durga does not live in us anymore. We have killed her spirit through our slumber, smothered her in bed linen when she is born. We slay her with our silence, while girls are violated walking to school, going to fill their pitchers with water, when travelling to work, in offices, fields, homes, dragged out of buses, humiliated, mutilated and shamed.
Concerns will ring hollow and cease to be significant if we don’t do anything. Open your eyes and embrace the challenge. Going by the common belief that Durga exists in each of us, isn’t it time then to end the silence and wake up the Durga in us? Isn’t it time to look within us, and perhaps not just above us?
The battle of good over evil awaits you. The battle of good over evil is not for the weak hearted. Are you ready?